Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Special Fourth of July Extra! Enjoy your holiday!

photo source; aroundambler.com

North to Alaska! At least that was the plan.

image source: facts.co

Summer of 1977.

My partner in this adventure Rick, was riding his Yoshimura equipped Honda 750. The plan was to ride the length of the Pacific Coast on Highway One and cross into British Columbia. The weather had turned cold and foggy and we arrived south of the Oregon Border in Gold Beach looking for a motel room. There weren't any. We learned from some locals that a movie crew was filming a program in the area and had booked all open rooms. It was dark and cold and it seemed like it was going to rain soon. I thought about our options: just keep riding. This didn't look too appealing. I saw a school bus parked alongside a gas station, maybe we could just pitch our sleeping bags under that? I had even contemplated asking the attendant if we could sleep in the bathroom, (hey, we were desperate!) The attendant said if we wanted to we could sleep in his car. It was about as bad an idea as it sounded, but it was dry, although smelling a bit like spilled beer, and it did keep us out of the rain that night. I stuffed a ten spot into the ash tray as we left at daybreak.

Olympia Washington

Rick snapped my favorite photo of my motorcycling career. 

We really never thought about reserving a room in those pre cell phone and pre internet days. The smart plan was to stop earlier and find a room.  This time we splurged on a room at the Sheraton in Olympia Washington. It was worth it. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I told Rick we would eat at a Mexican place the next night. Believe it or not, we couldn't find a Mexican place throughout the rest of the trip. (How things have changed!) We took a tour of the Olympia beer plant and this time we both took the time for a few snapshots. That photo Rick took of me in front of the Capitol building is an all time favorite.

It is the water.

There weren't too many  problems with the bike. Due to the lack of Locktite, my bulb horn vibrated off, the top motor mount followed. Luckily I could retrieve the motor mount from the middle of the highway. Vibration took its toll. Those curly wires all broke at the connections, and the rear chain guard mount cracked off. I stopped at a welder to get the guard fixed and an auto supply store for some Locktite.

We were at the Canadian border. "Now if you'll just answer a few questions!"

At the Canadian border we were given the command "pull your bikes over there and wait for an inspector." We complied, we didn't have anything to hide. Our hair was a little long, but neither of us had any tattoos, we were both Catholic school graduates and good law abiding guys at that. They asked us to unload our bikes while they took a look. We were escorted into a little office and interviewed by some border agent. Neither of us was into dope or carrying weapons although we were asked, and they did look. "Empty your pockets!" Hey, we were just a couple of motorcycle tourists. They took our IDs and returned in a few minutes. We were given the green light  and had to repack and load our stuff. Wow! We were actually in Canada!

Our route would take us up the Yellowhead highway, eventually to Prince Rupert BC. From there the plan was to take a ferry over to the south border of Alaska and to ride the Alcan highway as far as we could. Now this was about forty years ago and it was much less populated than it is today. Once you left the bigger cities the countryside was pretty wild and empty.

Rick at a pet "comfort station" somewhere hot in BC.

Busted down in Boston Bar. Not really. Do not order pork chops.

Even Hondas break down sometimes. Nah, just a flat tire

For once, I wasn't working om my bike.

My bike had settled into a pretty good groove running like a champ. The only problem was with the small gas tank.  My range was limited to a maximum of around seventy miles, and I didn't want to run out, like I said, it was lonely out there! At one point Rick's bike got a flat rear tire and he pulled the wheel and we rode off on my bike to find a bike shop. He clutched he wheel in his lap. Between that and holding on for dear life the sprocket left a greasy imprint on his white T shirt! Quite funny.

The distance from the last small town and gas station to Prince Rupert was around 125 miles. There was no way that I could make it on that small tank. Scrounging around in the trash I pulled out two empty one gallon, anti freeze containers. I rinsed them out and filled them up with gas. My mileage was around 35 mpg. and seventy miles was really pushing it.

Skeena Crossing Centre. a quant little store. Mr Freezes cost only .05.
Dirt road into Terrace. Everything under control.

What followed is the most memorable ride of my lifetime. We were riding through the most beautiful forest road. The exhaust note of each bike echoed off the trees and hillsides as we blasted down that empty forest. I am partial to Harleys, but the sound of a Yoshimur equipped Honda four is just as unforgettable.

We finally made it to Prince Rupert.

Somewhere over there Alaska awaits. Someday...

For some reason we realized that we couldn't fulfill our plan to go all the way to Alaska. I really can't recall why. I think it was because we were running low on money and maybe time. The trip was probably taking more time and costing more money than we had budgeted for.  At this time neither of us had a credit card and we never even considered calling home and having our folks wire us some funds. We plotted out a return trip that was the best consolation prize we could have wanted. From Prince Rupert we took the ferry to the top of Vancouver island. We would ride down the length of the island and re-board a ferry over to Port Angeles Washington.

My chopper got a lot of attention from other motorists as we waited on the dock to board.  Rick and I rode down the ramp and secured our bikes to the deck for the trip.

The first leg of the ferry trip was incredible. We hadn't booked a stateroom for the overnight trip through the inland passage. Like most of of fellow travelers we were gong to spend the night on the deck or sleeping on the floor of the large upper cabin. There was a little cafe and bar available. That night we stood at the deck railing looking up at the infinite stars and watching the show of falling meteors. Like I mentioned, this was forty years ago and the land was empty and wild, and Boy was it dark!

The Inland Passage. A truly unforgettable experience of a lifetime.

Motorcycles had been the last to board and were the first to unboard. There were several motorists gathered around my bike, waiting expectantly for it to roar into life. I got up on the pegs and starter and assumed my best macho biker kick starter pose. It fired once, then burped and back fired. I quickly tried to clear the motor by vigorous kicking but was unsuccessful. My moment of glory had passed and I was told to push the bike aside and wait until the others were done. Of course it finally started and sounded pretty awesome as I rode it out of the boat.

We were on a tight schedule and had to ride the length of the island to catch the last ferry to the US that evening. It was a pleasant but hurried ride and luckily both bikes ran fine without any problems. When we arrived in Victoria I thought that we had enough time to grab some dinner before boarding the ferry. We found an Italian restaurant and had spaghetti. I asked the waiter how come he hadn't brought us any sour dough French bread. He asked where we were from. When we told him that we were from the SF Bay Area he told us that was the only place that it was available. It wasn't sold outside the Bay Area. I never knew that.

Dinner had dragged on a bit longer than anticipated and a mad dash ensued as we tried to make it to the dock in time to board. It took some frantic questioning of the natives, it  was close, but luckily we made it in time. This ferry ride was much shorter and not nearly as impressive as the Inland Passage.

It was our first day back in Washington and I was getting a little sloppy in repacking the bike in the morning and I let one of the canvas ammo bags hang in a position where it could tilt inwards going over bumps and hit the side mounted valve stem. I actually think that Rick pointed it out to me. So what? Who cares? I didn't feel like stopping and adjusting it. Later.

So who cares? I sure did when the valve stem broke off and I sustained a rear wheel blowout! Boy did those bars start to wiggle, as I slowed down the frequency increased to what could be described as a tank slapper. Slowing even more the bike started weaving from one side of the lane to the other, Luckily I made it to a safe stop on the shoulder.  I limped a half mile or so to a gas station. We found a concrete block that we wrestled the bike up onto. After removing the inner tube I looked in the yellow pages for a bike shop. There weren't any close by but then I had another great idea.

For years motorcycle magazines had remarked that the 5.00 x 16 Harley tire looked like a small automobile tire.  So why not use an automotive tube? The VW tube, while designed for a 15 inch wheel could obviously stretch a bit, and the valve stem could be twisted to the side. No problem. We rode off, got the tube, and put the bike back together.

The next morning I was blasting down the highway and BANG! Another blow out! More pulse pounding excitement until the bike was finally stopped safely. This time we limped off the highway to a nearby motel. The Pullver Motel, "quiet as a mouse." The only bike shop, a small Honda dealership wouldn't be open until Tuesday, and today was Sunday afternoon. The VW tube had been folded over and I'm guessing the friction inside the tire caused it to abrade and blow. So no more car tubes. Luckily the shop carried some of those 5.00 x 16 tubes for the occasional chopper rider in town. By Monday afternoon we were back in business.

The rest of the ride home is even less memorable and we didn't make any stops. I remember passing by a roadside attraction called "Trees of Mystery." We couldn't see any mysteries from the road, but there were a couple of giant statues of Paul Bunyon and Babe, the Blue Ox, located in the parking lot. A few years later on another trip I stopped to check out the attraction. It was just a forest trail with a bunch of somewhat unusually shaped trees you could look at.

Like all road trips the most important thing was to make it home safely. Which we both did. This had been the most challenging trip so far, it was long, the road was unfamiliar and wild, there were problems with my bike, and we even ventured into another country. Rick and I decided we would take another big trip the following summer.

No comments:

Post a Comment